Look: 6 designs compete to become Los Angeles' memorial to Chinese massacre of 1871

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The city of Los Angeles has selected the designs of six finalists in the competition to become the city’s memorial to the Chinese massacre of 1871.

In August last year, Mayor Eric Garcetti, along with the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, the office of Councilmember Kevin de León and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, requested the public send in conceptual proposals to develop a memorial for the victims of the 1871 Chinese massacre.

The massacre, which occurred on Oct. 24, 1871, saw a mob of hundreds murder at least 18 Chinese men in a racially motivated attack in the old Chinatown neighborhood. The mob reportedly shot, beat or hanged individuals of Chinese descent. Although eight attackers were tried, they were eventually released.

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The incident, which has been largely forgotten, was marked as the deadliest instance of racial violence in L.A. The lone public memorial to the event is a bronze plaque embedded in a sidewalk outside the Chinese American Museum, which is near the site of the massacre and which the new memorial will also be built near.

The Department of Cultural Affairs has since chosen six design finalists out of 176 entries.

The proposed budgets reportedly vary from $350,000 to $1.5 million, which will be funded by support from the city and private donors.

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“There’s elegance, and an eloquence about the way that the designers are treating the subject matter that was really sort of poignant and profound,” said Felicia Filer, director of the department’s public art division, according to LAist.

Fung and Blatt Architects

Los Angeles, CA

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The architecture firm Fung and Blatt Architects’ design features a split boulder that is placed on the ground amid black ingots to reflect the sky. Inside the boulder, an infinity mirror box is encased. Its illuminated walls of optically infinite depth are lined with pinewood tablets, with the top rows inscribed with the names of massacre victims.

Anna Sew Hoy, Zhu Jia and Formation Association

Los Angeles, CA

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Artists Anna Sew Hoy and Zhu Jia with architecture firm Formation Association envisioned a “Memorial Colonnade” that demonstrates a chronology of the events of the massacre at eye level. The proposal features a “Flying Cord” that connects a set of 18 “Memorial Stelae.”

Frederick Fisher, David Ross, Takashige Ikawa, Lustina Nicolae and Candice Lin

Los Angeles, CA

Architecture firm Frederick Fisher and Partners with artist Candice Lin proposed a monolith black stone sculpture that is carved with a map of the spirit world to guide the wandering spirits of the 1871 massacre to peace in the afterlife.

Sze Tsung, Nicolás Leong and Judy Chui-Hua Chung

Los Angeles, CA

The design of architects Sze Tsung, Nicolás Leong and Judy Chui-Hua Chung is inspired by the guardian banyan trees that are traditionally planted in Sze Yup in Kwangtung, China, a region where the vast majority of early Asian immigrants came to America’s Pacific coast. Leong and Chung envision a petrified grove of stone trunks placed along a memorial path.

James Leng, Jennifer Ly and J. Roc Jih

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco architecture collective Figure x J. Jih’s design features a garden within a circular limestone vessel, which serves as a place of “respite and reflection” and allows communities to “reconnect civic memory with notions of maintenance, fidelity and care.”

The outer vessel of their proposal is a honed cylindrical form with three openings that reveal an inner void sculpted with 18 polished flutes, each memorializing a victim of the massacre.

Sonam Lhamo, Jiawei Yao and Yiying

Seattle, WA

The Seattle architectural team of Sonam Lhamo, Jiawei Yao, Yiying proposed an intervention called The Bridge Sanctuary, which would span the street and replace brick with asphalt.

The six finalists will receive a $15,000 stipend to further develop their proposals before presenting them to the community for review.

While city officials are set to choose one finalist in March, officials plan to hold a Zoom presentation of the proposals in mid-February.

Designers will undergo interviews with the selection panel, which includes Yale architecture critic and journalist Christopher Hawthorne, musical artist and community activist Jason Chu and Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Clara Kim.

City officials want to hear feedback from the public regarding the development of the memorial to the 1871 Chinese massacre. Individuals may email their comments to: dca.publicart@lacity.org

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